Round Challah for a Sweet New Year
Aug29

Round Challah for a Sweet New Year

Round Challah is a traditional sweet bread, served on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize the cycle of life and a sweet new year. A few years ago, I was blown away by my cousin Carla’s homemade honey and raisin challah at our holiday celebration. Orna and Sam with Cousin Carla September, 2011 You probably already know that I have a thing for bread. I also have a major thing for challah. And topped with cinnamon sugar?! You’ve got to be kidding me! But how could I possibly make this incredible loaf myself?  Carla agreed to come over the next day and show me how it was done—removing the fear factor, and sparking my love for baking any kind of bread. Well, truthfully, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with yeast, which is why I’ve included step-by-step details, so that even if you’ve never used yeast before, you can do this! And most importantly, enjoy the process. The instructions below are for kneading in a stand mixer, or you can just do it the old fashioned way, with some elbow grease. On her next visit from Vancouver, Carla surprised me with my very own copy of The New Food Processor Bible, by Norene Gilletz, where she found this wonderful recipe. Highly Recommend! Both of these kind, generous bakers have inspired and encouraged me, and I hope to do the same for you! A special thank you goes out to Norene and friends in Norene’s Kitchen on Facebook for answering all my questions! Carla’s always getting on my back to be more “relaxed” and just enjoy cooking—but I’m sure that if I have all these questions and issues, someone out there does too, so here’s hoping that I’m making the process a little easier and less daunting. There’s no sweeter way to bring in the New Year than breaking fresh, homemade Challah with your family. Chag Sameach from our family to yours. xoxo      What you will need  Bubbled up yeast Make a well in the flour   Add the oil, eggs, water, salt, honey, and yeast mixture   Mix with the paddle attachment until combined and smooth   Knead with the dough hook for about 8 minutes; the dough should be soft and slightly sticky   Place in a large, oiled bowl, turning once to grease the top Cover and place in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 1 – 2 1/2 hours until doubled in size (or refrigerate overnight) Dough has doubled in size when you lightly poke two fingers into it and the indent doesn’t come right back out Roll into a long...

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Spectacular Ginger “Hermits”
Dec06

Spectacular Ginger “Hermits”

Click here to see all three clips of Orna making Hermits on YouTube >>  These soft and chewy, gingery cookie bars are the ultimate holiday cookie.   They originated in New England in the 1900’s, and supposedly gained their name because the flavor improves on day 2 or 3, after being stowed away like a “hermit”—perfect for making ahead and giving as gifts. This is a modern version, with brown butter, crystallized ginger, and raisins. I just can’t stop eating them! Click here for latest blogpost on visit to Weight Watchers meeting! The history My mother-in-law once raved about the “best cookie she ever tasted in her life,” and she managed to get the recipe from a friend in Calgary, Canada—Sam’s hometown. I was reluctant, because neither Sam nor I usually like dried fruit in cookies. But his folks convinced us how fabulous these fruity “ginger cookies” were, and I decided to brave the very basic recipe she gave me. The whole process was agonizing! I had scoured the internet for a recipe with similar ingredients and instructions, and discovered that they were actually called “Hermits.” But I couldn’t find exact details on how long or wide to make the logs of dough, how big to cut them, how many cookies it would turn out, etc. If you’ve been following any of my other posts, you’ll know that I LOVE details, so this one was a challenge. The baking times were very tricky, but I FINALLY got it right, and they were outstanding. (I now realize that since the recipe was from Calgary—which is at a higher altitude—I should’ve reduced the oven temp by 25 degrees.) I was still in search of a better version I’m not a fan of cloves—a predominant note in the Calgary recipe, which also has dried apricots and raisins or cherries. I was sure that a different combination of spices would make this cookie really shine. The problem with making something everybody likes is that they will compare everything similar to that and tell you not to bother!   I tried Iced Hermits from Martha Stewart’s Cookies (fabulous book!)—also with crystallized ginger. I thought they were quite good (though a bit rich), but Sam vetoed them in favor of the originals.         You can imagine my delight when I found a detailed recipe for Hermits in my Cook’s Illustrated Baking for the Holidays 2012 magazine. Now I love this magazine even more! (You can find them for a great price at Costco.) They test hundreds of recipes to find the perfect version, explaining the science of each step and method, complete with...

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